Cafe Hopper Review: Viking Cafe@Kandahar Street

Viking cafe was an unexpected find for me at Kandahar Street. It happen to be along the same street as Maison Ikkoku Cafe. As I was leaving from Maison Ikkoku, and I walked down the lane, I bummed into the Viking. For a while I was trying to figure out what kind of place is Viking. Only after a while of observation then I realised that it was a cafe. My friend and I entered the cafe and it has a very strong street art look, with graffiti on the walls and some paintings by local artists. There is also a little platform with some music equipments. The furnitures are pretty raw and they are very streets style as well.

We sat down after our tiring walk and was deciding what we should order from them. They seem famous for their burgers and they make their own meat patty as well. I decided to go for their cheesy burger and my friend ordered their original burger. When the food arrived, they certainly look very wholesome and very attractive. I must say that the burgers did impressed the both of. For a cafe that was opened 6 months ago, in August, the quality of food served is pretty nice and tasty. However, the coffee is rather ordinary. I ordered their latte and it didn’t really taste as nice as I would expect it.

I was at first pretty puzzled about what kind of feel I should get from this cafe. I couldn’t figure out how I should feel when I looked at their decor and paintings. I decided to ask the staff what’s behind the thought of the cafe decor. Only then I realised that one of their aims is to support local artists and providing them a platform to express their arts. In fact, just last week, they had a poetry recital in the cafe itself. I find this idea very interesting but it is not coming forth very strong when I was there. Perhaps, I need to be there when there is a performance or something in order to feel it.

For a cafe which only started 6 months ago, I think they will need to take some time to put in more thoughts into the cafe. If local performing art scene is their niche, I certainly hope that will really emerge forth more prominently in the cafe. Viking…press on…there is certainly a place for you in the local cafe scene.

The gatekeeper

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Cafe Hopper Review: Maison Ikkoku Cafe@Kandahar Street

Maison Ikkoku Cafe – heard of this cafe from a friend and always thought that it is located in some mysterious corner of Singapore. I happened to be walking along Beach Road and coincidentally I bummed into this little cafe at the corner of Kandahar Street, some what alongside Beach Road. Well, not that mysterious after all, but it is certainly near the famous Sultan Mosque near Baghdad Street.

When you enter the cafe, it gives you a very cellar feel. You will notice the lighting with pipeline design and the uneven wall surface that makes it seems like some underground place. You would also notice the hanging cabinets at the ceiling. My personal feel is that it is one cosy corner with a slight stain it character in it. It’s actually a pretty cosy corner, especially when my friend and I had walked a long way.

I ordered my usual latte and a piece of carrot cake which my friend agreed to share with me. You know I can’t have too much of these cakes….not very healthy for me. I was allured by the little carrot design on the cake and told myself…just this once! I must say that the latte was really nice. It’s one of the best latte I have ever tasted so far. The roasted after taste of the latte was simply addictive and the coffee bean is a good mixed of 4 or 5 different types of beans. They are pretty open about their mix which I really find it very good.

The carrot cake was wholesome and I must say very tasty. You can see how wholesome it is when you see the filling in between the layers. Every bite of the cake comes with the many other ingredients in it. I love the cake. I doubt they bake the cake themselves but I must say they certainly have very good suppliers. However, $6 for a piece of cake is a bit pricey actually. Ok, let’s not talk about dollars and cents here.n

On a whole, it was a very refreshing experience in the cafe. The cellar or underground feel of the cafe give customers a sense of a secret hiding place where you can gossip about your boss, or bitch about your friends or just philosophising about life. Certainly a cool chill out place! I left my name card with them and introduced myself as cafe hopper to them….

The gatekeeper

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Cafe Hopper Review: Ah Teng 糕饼店 (Cake Shop)@Raffles Hotel

I was on my way to meet an old friend at Raffles City and I bummed into this cafe when my bus stopped at Raffles Hotel (if I am not wrong, the oldest hotel in Singapore). I was walking along the colonial style corridor of the hotel and I suddenly smell something interesting in one if the shops along. Yup, I saw the name Ah Teng 糕饼店 on the glass window and I peeped in to see people enjoying afternoon tea. Well, I needed to rush for my appointment, so decided to spare this one for later. I had a good catch up with my friend and sharing with her my experience with her. Hope I didn’t bore her, especially we have not met for quite a long time.

After my appointment with her, I was really wondering where to head to before my next appointment at the Asian Civilisation Museum for their Halloween night special. I decided that I will pay Ah Teng 糕饼店 a visit then. They have high tea set special ranging from $10 to $12. They have three different sets of high tea sets, namely, Scone Set, Cake Set and Muffin Set. I decided to try their Scone Set with coffee, especially after seeing that they have huge scone. Their scone is anytime bigger than Big Mac from Macdonald, of course without the meat and the veggies. It tastes really good when it is warmed up. Once it is warmed up, the crisp outside plus the fragrant fine scone made this a treat of taste and feel. The scone is served with butter, jam and cheese. Go for the cheese, it’s really nice. Ok, I love to eat it this way: pinch a bit of the scone with your fingers, dip it into the melted cheese (it doesn’t turn watery), and gulp it in one mouthful of it. Forget about the knife they would provide you with. It’s tastes really nice. They don’t serve gourmet cafe like Starbucks or other cafes that specialise in their coffee. It’s basically machine made coffee but its pretty good anyway. I love the long black because it tastes exactly like our coffee shop kopi o.

Because I am someone who loves old stuff, I love the decor. Once you stepped into the cafe you will find yourself being transported back to the 60s or 50s. The nice partition in the middle of the cafe is the main drop. I love the green, stained glass on the partition and the swinging door. You can sit in he cafe and look out through the window. It’s always a nice thing to look out through the window.

On a whole, this is one nice cafe to visit. A very good alternative to Starbucks or other cafes around the area. Nice place to chill out with friends or perhaps, just sit alone to read a book or do your blogging. Still two more hours to my Halloween night….hopefully I will bum into another cafe that I can write about.

The gatekeeper

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Cafe Hopper Reflection on Alone-ness

I saw this quote by Oscar Wilde one if the mornings when I woke up and it hit me very strongly. It’s very healthy to spend time alone. We all need to learn to be alone so that we are not defined by others. How true this is! Cafe is a good place to be alone and yet not feeling too lonely. Like for now, I am alone here in a cafe but I am not lonely. Just diagonally across me is a European lady, also busy typing on her iPad. Of course and she is alone as well. I am sure that she is enjoying her time alone too. As I look across the cafe, I see quite a number of people by themselves, doing their works or reflection. We certainly need time that we can lock ourselves in and be totally “myself”. Only when we are locked in then can we see ourselves clearer. Oh trust me, it takes lots of courage and bravery to see yourself. I remember through my darkest moment in life, when I am locked in, just me and myself, it was a scary moment when I saw “myself”. This is not some mystical experience…it is a real mental, emotional and spiritual experience.

So often when we are with somebody, we are defined by that somebody. We will behave in a manner that s acceptable by that some one. Thus, when you are not locked in, you will always see others in yourself. But, when we allow ourselves to be locked in…and allow I to see You….that is an experience that is not often pleasant. There come another gentleman sitting besides me, and he is alone too. This solo experience is so sacred and so divine. I remember putting a group of students through such a solo experience and wow….they discovered that it was so hard for them to be alone. They were also amazed at the thoughts that flowed through their minds and most importantly they enjoyed that solo experience. There is a ritual in the Haj where pilgrims have to spend a night in this mountain all by themselves, not talking to anyone, just between the I and God. Many of them would tell you that this solo experience can be very scary or it can be most revealing of the I in them.

Well, we thank God for cafes. Most of us are not serious pilgrims that we need to go through such rigorous solo experience. But if we can take an hour or so, make date with yourself, sit down in a nice corner of a cafe and just do some thinking, you will find that the experience is indescribable. For Christians, it may be a fresh new encounter with God! Besides doing my quiet time nowadays, I also practise meditation just before I go to sleep nowadays. I want to make it a point to sit down quietly at least for 10 to 15 mins a day. This is to clear your mind of thoughts and other distraction. I love doing this. I don’t think there is anything unchristian about this. See, we are very often defined by others….I rather not be.

Take sometime to be alone this weekend. Cancel all your happening appointments with your friends or buddies. Give your wife the license to shop for anything she wants. Give your husband a two hours break from his normal routine. People, you will find this very refreshing and enriching.

The gatekeeper

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Cafe Hopper Reflection – Last Week of No Pay Leave

I have finally come to the last week of my NPL (No Pay Leave). Two and a half months of rest and journeying with Constant Companion. I must say that I have made the right decision to forgo my 2 1/2 months of pay for something so needed by my soul. I started with my full time blogger job as a cafe critic. Then I moved on to traveling to Bhutan and that was really one of the highlights of this journey. Then I came back really with a very different perspective about life and happiness. I went on several runs and particularly The Northface 100 run which I did not complete. I must say that the TNF 100 is also one of the major highlights of the journey. Running together with Constant Companion was one of the best things that happened. I continued with my Cafe Hopper job and will certainly continue to do that for a long time I guess.

So this is the last week of the 2 1/2 months of NPL. I must say that it has been a wonderful journey and I really thank Almighty God for the so many people who actually journeyed with me together. I have learnt so much from this journey and I have also unlearned a lot of things. I really like the unlearned part. I have always thought that you have to hold on to something to own it. After this journey I have realized that you do not actually own anything until you are willing to let go of them. Only in letting go is there true ownership. I know this sounds very ironic and paradoxical but that’s the fact of life. You only let go of something that you own…isn’t it true?

I have also learned that life begins only when you get your butt out of your comfort zone. As long as we continue to stay in our comfort zone, we will not experience much of life. During the journey, I took myself out of my job and my high paying salary. Did it cause any pain…I am very sure it did! Today, when I look back at this decision that I have made, I thank God that I made this decision and given another chance I would still do likewise. I know that this is an expensive journey and trust me it’s not about courage but about doing what is necessary. It is important that we understand God’s timing for rest. Well, forgoing your pay is a discomfort zone. Yes, and of course eventually I decided to resign from my job. Believe me when I said that this is a damn, bloody discomfort zone for me. The day that I handed in my letter, I felt totally stripped and was feeling rather angry with myself. Honestly, that only lasted for a day. Many people were shocked at my resignation but I supposed for people who know me well, this should not be a surprise to them.

One more thing that I have learned and this may sound very cliche, that is, there are really more important things than dollars and cents. Reality check: not many people are willing or daring enough to do what I have done. There’s just so much of insecurity involved in this. I felt insecure myself. But I have learned to trust in Almighty God in this. After I took my NPL, I have time to enjoy a nice breakfast with my mum almost everyday. I love doing that! I have time to meet up with people whom I have not met for very long time and I have done many things which I wanted to for the past years but never got a chance to do it. I am not sure when will be the next time I do something like this but I must say that all these are possible because I have learned to let go and let God take over. Did I destroy my own career…not at all. I have built myself a different career right now. I have built myself a career with God and His everlasting Kingdom. This career no one will be able to take it away from me.

I have one more thing that I need to do, that is, my Thailand trip end of the year. That will be one major highlight that I will have to accomplish before all these come to a close. May the Lord continue to watch over my path!

Enough of reflecting for now but my encouragement to you is that recognize time for rest….don’t be too hard on yourself! Take time to slow down your pace and you will find that there’s a lot more things in life that is very precious and beautiful. God bless you as you continue to labour in love!

the gatekeeper

Cafe Hopper Review: Book Cafe@Clarke Quay Central Mall

This is another surprise encounter for the day. I was sitting at Starbucks in Central Mall and when I lifted up my head in reflection, I saw this big sign saying “Book Cafe”. That really attracted me. Oh not just attracted but really got me excited. I mean I just finished with Settlers’ Cafe and now another one! Cool. But I decided to pay this cafe only later just before dinner time. I had a good afternoon nap at the Merchant Court Swissotel and it was such a peaceful rest on that comfy beds until a few of my friends started to wattsapp me asking me to give them advice on where to eat in Orchard Road and which hotel to stay for their next staycation. Since when did I become a consultant for leisure and pleasure….hahaha! But honestly I do like that kind of job – to be a consultant for leisure and pleasure. Cool isn’t it!

Managed to dig myself from the comfy bed and reluctantly walked out of my room. Yup, my first stop was Book Cafe. It’s not easy to locate the place but I am sure you won’t miss the signboard put up by them as well. It’s pretty obvious actually. I was a rather disappointed at a first when I stepped into the shop. It looks like an ordinary bookshop. I was wondering where is the cafe? I felt so cheated at first. I was greeted by a huge shelf of books in Japanese and as I walked further in there was another few shelves of English literatures. I felt that I must be missing out something. I saw a number sofas lying at various corners of the bookshop. I was definitely missing out something. I approached the counter and found this little menu for drinks. Hey…that’s cool! I could order drink!

Now Book Cafe is not your usual kind of cafe. It’s focus is not really on food and beverages. It’s really about books and mainly Japanese books. Well, if it sits near Liang Court you should know why japanese books. There are also a number of shelves with a good collection of Japanese manga. Ok, some of these books are not exactly new. The Book Cafe does some kind of selling and re-selling of books here. So it’s like a re-sale market for books. Interestingly, the books there are very well-kept and they look pretty new to me. After you have ordered your drink, you can really sit down in one of the nice sofas and just start your reading. Just pick up any nice book or easy reading and there you go….a Book Cafe. I sort of like the idea.

Books and cafes always come hand in hand together. Most of the cafes I have hopped to do have some mini collection of reading materials. This one has the most collection of books. The staff are pretty friendly…they are mainly Japanese and that explains why they are friendly. I didn’t find anything to eat in the cafe and I am not too sure if they do serve food. Well, you can help Cafe Hopper up by visiting this unique cafe and drop me a line or two to let me and the rest of the community know. I will consider this as niche cafe as well, like that of Settlers’ Cafe. It actually has a lot of personality and it’s loud about it. Cafes with personality and character always attracts me. There are many cafes springing up in recent years and very few of them really shout out a good character. To me, a cafe must not only serve good coffee and food but it must be able to tell a story about its owner and the team of staff working in the cafe.

I left the Book Cafe feeling very satisfied. Stretch your idea of a cafe little and you will find the Book Cafe unique by itself….and especially if you love the Japanese culture.

The gatekeeper

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Cafe Hopper Review: Settler’s Cafe@North Canal Road

There are some places that you shouldn’t go there alone. Trust me, Settler’s Cafe is one place you should not venture alone. This is a niche cafe! This is a cafe, although simple but with a lot of personality and character. It is a board game paradise for board game lovers. Once you step into the cafe, you will be greeted by these whole shelves of board games. I am serious….it’s really a whole series of shelves so fully packed with games after games. While most cafes will put their emphasis on the food and beverages, this one has its focus on games. That is personality. That is not to say that they have compromised on the quality of food.

I ordered their purple dinosaurs drink and the drink looks good and tastes good as well. It’s basically soda mixed with blueberry juice. I really love the colour of it. For food, I ordered one of their signature dishes, tumeric chicken. To my pleasant surprise, it tastes very well and the tumeric is not too strong for me. Well, the best thing is it is boneless. I love the fries because it is hot and crisp.

Well, yes, I felt a little out of place because while the rest came here to play game with two or more companies, I went there alone. I couldn’t be playing game on my own! Hahaha! If you are a serious board game lover, this is one cafe not to be missed. You’ll get good food and at the same time great entertainment from the so many selection of board games. Oh yah, do your reservation with them to avoid disappointment.

The gatekeeper

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Cafe Hopper Review: Belly View Cafe@Changi Coast Walk

This is one very interesting sight for all cafe lovers. It’s not really a cafe but I guess the definition of cafe can be stretched. Belly View Cafe exist alongside a few others bars and restaurant along the Changi Coast. Thus, while dining here, you will also get to enjoy the nice and scenic coastal view. This is not very common in Singapore and this is one place to come if you wish to have a good treat of sight and taste.

Although Belly View is a cafe, it doesn’t really serve gourmet coffee like the other cafes. In fact, the selling point for the cafe is its tze char or literally translated as stir fried cooking. It has a whole variety of seafood and other delicacies. Whenever I am there I will always order the deep fried squid and the fried kway tiao. I simply love the combi of the deep fried squid and beer. They are the best compliment so far.

There is no exotic decor in this place because the natural sea view is its best decor. It’s very relaxing just sitting by the coastal area. The only bad side about the place is that it is rather out of reach by most people. However, that is also not a bad thing. Come on a weekday afternoon and you will find the place quiet and you can truly enjoy the peace and tranquility there.

The gatekeeper

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